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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 58 reggie ray: There’s a lot of potential experience in working closely with the body, but without some sort of spiritual men- toring we really can’t go anywhere. That might be one of the main dilemmas in our culture. So many people are working with the body from so many different angles, but if the spiri- tual outlook isn’t there, the full extent of what’s possible in working with the body doesn’t come to fruition. Cyndi Lee: At my studio, people are trained with that kind of orientation. So when they get more advanced, they get more interested in the experience rather than the story line about the experience—what they can and cannot do anymore, for example. Instead, they consider: What am I feeling? What am I experiencing right now? How is it changing? It becomes an immediate meditation in the body. We teach people that kind of immediate attention from day one, but it takes a while for people to sustain intense interest in what’s going on with the body at an intimate level. BuddhadharMa: Many people say they experienced a break- through in meditation practice when they finally understood the difference between the psychosomatic body, the projection of body, and the body just as it is. Up until that point, they say, meditation instruction seemed more theoretical or therapeutic, but once they encountered real body, their practice became grounded. Is it not, then, vitally important that mindfulness of body be emphasized in meditation instruction to ensure that the rubber meets the road? PhiLLiP Moffitt: I start guided meditation by saying, Bring attention to the body—not your body, the body. I’m pointing to a phenomenon occurring right now. I continue by saying we are not judging the body, not comparing the body, not fixing the body. I focus on judging, comparing, and fixing, because those three tend to be our primary relationships with the body. Do we like our body? How does it compare to our body before, to others’ bodies? What’s wrong with it that we need to repair? If you’re judging, comparing, and trying to fix your body, you’re still in your head, in duality: it’s the body you want vs. the body you have. This separation is creating solidity. And it happens on some very subtle levels. If you have a good teacher, one who is grounded in his or her own experience, and can continually bring the student back to their direct experience, then we can trust the dharma to work on the student. So one literally don’t see anything physical. An enlightened person would see space. From our literal, modern viewpoint, it sounds very ethereal to talk about the body’s energy, but that’s actu- ally what the body is for some people. We can deconstruct our ideas of the body as a definitive phenomenon. It isn’t one solid, predetermined thing. It’s an open field for investigation. tenzin WangyaL rinPoChe: In my tradition, we work with body, speech, and mind as three doors. The body is a doorway into the nirmanakaya, speech into the sambhogakaya, and mind into the dharmakaya. If we engage these well, they become gateways to enlightenment, to buddhahood. If we leave them aside, we will not develop the kayas, the enlightened manifesta- tion. If you don’t work at all with the body, for example, you are going to miss the nirmanakaya aspect. I have been teach- ing about sound and speech as healing, which works with the sambhogakaya aspect. BuddhadharMa: In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha quite quickly takes us to the point of not just being mindful of body as body. He asks us to delve further, to explore its many parts and subparts, the fact of its decay, the fact that it is a bag of guts. What is the benefit of this teaching? PhiLLiP Moffitt: The teaching you refer to often descends into discussing the repulsiveness of the body, which I think is an unfortunate Victorian choice of words to translate what’s in the sutta. With that approach, when you describe the body in terms of its parts, there is a notion of aversion. The Buddha was certainly not teaching aversion. He was, once again, sim- ply teaching deconstruction. You see the body as a collection of sensations, as energetic phenomena. reggie ray: Those teachings about contemplating all the aspects of the body work with the way we hang on to the body as a reference point. They’re trying to help us let go of that pro- cess of hanging on. This frees the body to be itself. It doesn’t deny the body. It doesn’t put it down. It just frees it from our grasping and fixation, our trying to use the body as a source of security, which obviously blocks us and locks us up. PhiLLiP Moffitt: Absolutely. If we grasp one way, it’s eternal- ism. If we grasp the other way, it’s nihilism. And neither of those lets the body be what it is. BuddhadharMa: Do people who have stayed with a body dis- cipline a long time begin to let the body be what it is, just by continued exposure to working closely with it? For most people it’s easier to start with the body. You can feel it. You can touch it. Yoga is definitely a door to the dharma. —Cyndi Lee